As you have seen, artificial intelligence is already a part of our daily lives. Scientists around the world are finding many more applications for this scientific discipline. From Deep Blue to AlphaGo or Sophia (of Hanson Robotics) and the first autonomous vehicles, the news is full of increasingly amazing uses for AI.
These innovations and, more generally, future possibilities for this technology have been stimulating artists’ imaginations for many years. Think of Frankenstein, the Terminator, Wall-E, and the Black Mirror series—to name a few: our culture is replete with depictions of hypothetical future technologies and augmented humans.
But let’s take a moment to separate myth from reality, to uncover AI's true potential.
Debunk Common Myths Surrounding AI
Myth No. 1: "AI Programs Are Smarter Than Humans."
Artificial intelligence programs can accomplish amazing feats, such as defeating the world’s best Go players, identifying rare species in videos, and even bluffing their way through poker matches.
However, it’s essential to recognize that these programs are not copies of the human brain but instead inspired by it.
Current artificial intelligence programs are not that intelligent. Above all, they are incredibly specialized and are therefore very efficient at performing particular tasks.
As Yann Le Cun put it:
"The most intelligent computer systems today have less common sense than your cat!" 🤭
For example, if I were to say, "Rose left the building with her suitcase."
Since you are not a robot, you possess common sense. Therefore, you have gleaned a lot of underlying information from this simple sentence:
You know that Rose is a person and not a flower.
You understand that Rose is no longer in the building.
You have even formed the hypothesis that Rose is going on a trip since she has a suitcase.
Machines haven't yet mastered the ability to apply judgment.
Myth No. 2: "AI Functions Just Like the Human Brain."
The goal of artificial intelligence is to solve complex problems that would typically require human intelligence. For example, it might involve visual perception or language recognition.
The development of neural networks (and thus deep learning) attempted to mimic the human brain's functions —and these neural networks make it possible to dialogue naturally with a machine.
As you saw above, current AI programs are very specialized.
Intelligence can be measured in different ways. When it comes to quick mathematical calculations or large memory capacities, artificial intelligence outperforms humans. However, there are other capabilities that AI will not possess for a long time. For example, AI does not have the capacity for emotion, empathy, or humor. 😏
Myth No. 3: "AI Programs Are Conscious and Might Have Feelings."
Before the advent of AI as a scientific discipline, artists imagined creatures capable of consciousness and emotion. This idea fuels countless works of fantasy and science fiction.
Pixar's Wall-E robot appears to express many feelings. In science fiction, humanoid robots often possess intelligence and emotion.
Outside the realm of science fiction, some smart speakers can now express emotion. Amazon Alexa can respond using intonations to show excitement, disappointment, or disapproval, which can be useful as an artificial companion (i.e., to relieve an older adult's solitude, extend a warmer welcome to hospital patients, etc.).
Myth No. 4: "AI Programs Could Take Over."
Some big names in science and technology, including Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates, and Elon Musk, have expressed concern about a super-intelligence, artificial intelligence that could develop beyond humans' ability to control it.
This Terminator-like scenario is still science fiction. Although scientists disagree regarding the emergence of super-intelligence, most of them concur that the humans who design AI programs are the ones who determine their behavior.
Current AI systems are very specialized, and their performances relate to their specialization.
Although inspired by the human brain, AI programs are not as evolved as humans and do not possess common sense.
AI products are not capable of emotion, although they can sometimes simulate it.
Now that you have learned more about what artificial intelligence covers, test your knowledge by answering a few questions!